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Valeria Flacca

Living Poets Society

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While Dacia had been a far and foreign frontier that inspired feelings of adventure and then home, Valeria had quickly welcomed back Rome, especially where it offered her the ability to further her career as a writer. Away, Landicus disappeared for a time and her own writing accumulated in notes and piles of poetry that many did not see or hear save perhaps Titus. Feeling a performative itch, Valeria had set up a reading of her poetry where she could spoil her inner theatre kid, full of different voices, dramatic speech, and wide gestures. Compared to the hypothetical numbers that she estimated for Landicus, the gathering for Valeria Flacca’s poetry was humble and predominately, if not all, women. She never felt competition between her two selves but in the light of putting more effort and thought towards her Valeria Flacca poems, she was still perceptive enough to feel that true art went underappreciated for anything sensational and provocative.

For her reading, she had arranged a meeting which had been announced and set it at the park, situating out in the greenery and under a small and stony pavilion with supportive pillars. For the occasion, Valeria had chosen a colourful wig and equally eccentric makeup. After the crowd gathered, Valeria had dived in and after the recital had come to its conclusion, the gatherers dispersed, leaving a few lingerers whom Valeria shared a little small talk with. “Seems as if there are many poets here today. Do you write as well?” she said, turning to one a beautiful young girl, who seemed not much older than her eldest.  
 

@Chevi

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Rome did not have enough female authors to celebrate. It was a sore point for Septima Minor, who had her own literary ambitions. Her grandfather encouraged her in his own way, but still, she wished she had more female companions, or even a mentor, who shared her interest; Thalia was a sweetheart, but when it came to literature, she had the attention of a half-drunk butterfly. Therefore, when she heard of the reading of Valeria Flacca, she was more than excited to attend the event in the park. 

Valeria Flacca had been known as a poet, but Septima had not encountered her in person before. She took a seat to the side at the reading, and listened to the poems with rapt attention, at least as enthralled by the author's appearance and presence as she was by her words. Finally, someone truly interesting! She was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she stayed longer than many of the guests, who were slowly milling around, and leaving after some pleasantries. 

 “Seems as if there are many poets here today. Do you write as well?” 

"Oh." Septima was shaken out of her thoughts by Valeria Flacca's voice, and she stood up, smoothing down her dress as she realized the woman of the hour was talking to her. "No, I'm... no, I wouldn't call myself a poet. I do enjoy writing, but... it's nothing like you, my lady."

@Joaquin

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“Nothing like me?” Valeria repeated with a laugh, namely because the young woman’s choice of words came across as endearing. It had also been humble and polite, the latter which Valeria hadn’t expected truthfully but still riding the high from the reading and typical Valeria, excited by the company, it hadn’t occurred to her that the girl might not have anticipated being addressed at all. Valeria had been her age once and likely would have felt and said the exact same, even though she had the clown of her group. She had a library of writing that she had created as a young girl, but she had never called herself a ‘writer’ where she felt it was more appropriate as an earned title, similar to how a man of the military might achieve the designation of ‘commander’. In a way, that was true, but it was also such a writer’s train of thought to focus on the meaning of words.

“I wouldn’t be too sure about that,” she smiled, intentionally giving subtle encouragement where she hadn’t exactly gotten the same at that age. Her brother, who she lovingly called ‘Porcus’, did skim some works and gave his… lovely insight but his interest, if it could be referred to as such, hardly counted. “It’s like they say: if you write, you’re a writer, if you choose to be one. Besides, I’ve always been of the opinion that each have their own merit and brings something individual to the table.” Valeria had plenty opinions when it came to writing, which she did prattle on to her husband but like a lot of artists, the kind that got strangely academic and analytic about the arts while equally finding entertainment felt more quenched when they could speak with someone that understood the language. “Do you ever share it or perhaps, do you intend to publish one day? Not that you must. It’s just that I remember, I always wanted to put my writing out there. I wish I had sooner.” 

 

@Chevi

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“Nothing like me?”

The woman laughed, and Septima suddenly realized how her words might have been misunderstood. "Not as good" she muttered sheepishly, fidgeting with the edge of her palla.

“I wouldn’t be too sure about that. It’s like they say: if you write, you’re a writer, if you choose to be one. Besides, I’ve always been of the opinion that each have their own merit and brings something individual to the table.”

Was she a writer? Septima did write, different kinds of things as her interest changed, but she never thought of herself as an author. Would she choose to be one? Her grandfather probably would not object too sternly, as long as it did not interfere with her other prospects. Septima tried to imagine herself as a writer, reading her works just as Valeria Flacca had done. Could she pull that off?...

“Do you ever share it or perhaps, do you intend to publish one day? Not that you must. It’s just that I remember, I always wanted to put my writing out there. I wish I had sooner.” 

"I do... I share it with my grandfather. He writes too. But I haven't... made anything public yet. My sister is more of a natural performer than I am." she admitted "Was it... was it hard? To publish something? As a... as a woman?"

@Joaquin

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“Now that’s wonderful,” Valeria uttered at her mention of sharing her writing with her grandfather who also happened to write. The image in her mind was endearing and something that she hoped she could share with her children, beyond reading or performing for them. “Is your grandfather an author, would I know of him if you named him?”

When asked about publishing, Valeria wasn’t certain of how honest she should be. It wasn’t that she wanted to be discouraging because the process itself was one thing and, in that sense, Valeria had to learn to bargain. It wasn’t that she hadn’t before but in terms of writing, when it came to putting her work out into the world for consumption with her name attached, she turned into something of a businesswoman, controlling her creative vision. The discouraging rather was other things. It partly had to do with being a woman because for every single woman there was about twenty men that could be named. There was simply a difference in emphasis and attention, so she believed, but partly it was her fault that she played into it: focusing more on her fake persona and male pseudonym over her own a lot of the time. Horribly, she enjoyed the interest Landicus gathered.

“It wasn’t hard because it was something that I wanted to do,” Valeria explained, and her drive was what made taking the plunge easier. Granted, she was not new to publishing her writing at the point either, just the name ‘Valeria Flacca’ was. She couldn’t exactly explain her entire experience to a young girl that she had gone behind her father’s back to essentially publish what was purple prose parodies of pornography. No matter how proud of that she was. “I was married by that point and pregnant with my first daughter. When you have nothing better to do than lie around in bed, it also makes it easier to simply not care anymore, though I’m not recommending it,” she grinned. “But it does have it challenges. There are many who expect or want you to quietly sit aside and leave the performance and participation to one’s husband. Even with myself, I’m an exception in some literary circles, excluded from others.” She shrugged; it gave her more for her to satire through Landicus. “I take it then, you’ve been thinking about it at least? If you ever need another pair of eyes or guidance, I would be happy to provide it.” It was hard for Valeria to say ‘no’ to the possibility.
 

 

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“Now that’s wonderful. Is your grandfather an author, would I know of him if you named him?”

"Gaius Petronius Aquilius. He raised me and my sister." Septima was proud of her grandfather, both as an author and as a parent figure. At least he never discouraged her from writing, or pursuing scholarship. Then again, she had not really talked to him yet about doing it seriously. She wasn't even sure yet if that was something she could be able to do.

“It wasn’t hard because it was something that I wanted to do,”

Septima admired people, especially women, who had that attitude. She hoped to be equally determined and motivated one day.

“I was married by that point and pregnant with my first daughter. When you have nothing better to do than lie around in bed, it also makes it easier to simply not care anymore, though I’m not recommending it... But it does have it challenges. There are many who expect or want you to quietly sit aside and leave the performance and participation to one’s husband. Even with myself, I’m an exception in some literary circles, excluded from others.” 

She was already a married woman, fulfilling the role of a Roman matron and mother, when she did her writing. Septima tried to picture herself running a household, making a baby, and working on her writing, but honestly, she could barely picture herself doing one of those things. She nodded as Valeria mentioned that she was excluded from some circles. It was more amazing that she had been included in some. 

“I take it then, you’ve been thinking about it at least? If you ever need another pair of eyes or guidance, I would be happy to provide it.” 

"That... yes, I have been considering it." Septima admitted with a small, grateful nod "I am not sure yet what my genre would be, however. I enjoy scholarly works, but those take... a lot of work. And I am not sure how skilled I am at poetry or... what genres would even be fitting."

@Joaquin

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Valeria’s brows furrowed in either vague or uncertain recognition of the name. While she was widely read or acquainted with most well-known names, at least those prior to Dacia, including those in brief passing, there were certain areas of literature that she admittedly gleaned out of disinterest, chiefly those that would normally be of high interest to her father: the non-fictions. For some writers, it was unmerited prejudgement but after travelling beyond Rome and Italia and being at the periphery of her husband’s military service, there was a small seed of a thought in Valeria’s mind to stretch her feet into writing she trekked less. Either way, the name intrigued her, and was kept in the back of her mind for later investigation, certain she would find something of interest. 

As the girl answered her, Valeria sat back down into the stone comfortably, while looking on with a smile. “Scholarly like your grandfather?” she asked curiously, which might’ve been meant her earlier suspicions were correct, but it also provided a window into the young girl’s mind, which was proving to be curious to a far older woman who found such works dry. “Let’s say that you’ve written something, something scholarly,” Valeria gestured her hand into the air, “what would be about?” There were a few scholarly works that wrote with authority in matters pertaining to domestic life that were by men under female pseudonyms, but Valeria never felt it was quite the same as what she did with her Landicus persona. Although, this conversation made her consider the idea of having Landicus comment about the sewage system. 

“You also shouldn’t be pressured to pigeonhole yourself somewhere, let your writing reign free,” she said just a touch theatrically and with a grin. “I wrote everything under the sun over the years until I realised what I like best, a little like the marriage bed.” 
 

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“Scholarly like your grandfather?”

So, she did know Grandfather. He was known in literate circles, at least as a person if not for his actual scholarly works. Septima smiled and gave a little nod. If she ever got to the level of scholarship that her grandfather had, she would be very proud of herself. 

“Let’s say that you’ve written something, something scholarly, what would be about?” 

That question, while she considered the matter a lot, was quite unexpected. Septima bit her lips. She was interested in many things at once, and it was hard to rein her attention in long enough to choose one of the many wonders the world had to offer.

"I am... interested in history. I like to read about what Rome used to be like, and how things were invented and built... that kind of thing." she admitted. It was one of her many interests, but one that surrounded her every day. "I also like nature. Minerals and animals and things." she felt a little embarrassed about not having a clearer picture of her literary interests.

“You also shouldn’t be pressured to pigeonhole yourself somewhere, let your writing reign free. I wrote everything under the sun over the years until I realised what I like best, a little like the marriage bed.”

Septima blinked, a little shocked by that last statement, not sure how to take it. She liked Valeria Flacca's outspoken nature, but she kept getting surprised by it.

"I... wouldn't know?... I'm not married yet."

@Joaquin

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“Oh,” Valeria expressed as if she had the sudden realisation of a mistake before she broke into yet another laugh. “Of course not, my apologies.” It wasn’t the girl’s lack of marriage that she found humorous but rather she had let her tongue run in the same way it did even in the presence of her children, though it was only Sulpicia who was of the age to understand half of what she said, as evident by the change of the colour in her cheeks. Her own mother rarely acknowledged the existence of sex. If she hadn’t been influenced by curiosity, fond of mischief, and in possession of an older brother like Gauis (who was comedy bound in the flesh, if you asked her), she might not have turned out so perverted a child herself. “I can tell you it’s nothing you want to hear from an old woman you’ve just met.”

Her fingers idly held the ends of her wig, straight and deep red (at least on that section of the wig), as if she were thinking but really, it was a pause before she changed the subject away from petrifying her company. “You’re very clearly clever,” Valeria commented then mused. “All your interests are very worldly, very present in physical reality.” It took maturity to expand towards the academic willingly, it gave an impression of intelligence, but then most quiet people often did – and the young girl did seem quiet, at least by Valeria’s mileage. Perhaps for all their silence they absorbed more information and for someone so young, it served as a precursor to wisdom. It made her curious about the grandfather that inspired her. “I don’t think I’ve asked after your name either. Here, why don’t you sit?” Her hand tapped the stone beside her.

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“Oh... Of course not, my apologies. I can tell you it’s nothing you want to hear from an old woman you’ve just met.”

She kind of did. Maybe just out of scientific curiosity, but since the death of her grandmother, who had been closer to Thalia than her, Clio did not really have a close older female companion to confide in. She was not about to ask intimate questions from a celebrated author she had just met, though. She knew better.

“You’re very clearly clever. All your interests are very worldly, very present in physical reality... I don’t think I’ve asked after your name either. Here, why don’t you sit?” 

"Oh." Septima blushed a little and took a seat, touched by the compliment. "My name is Septima Minor. My... family and friends call me Clio. I have a twin sister, Septima Maior. Thalia, we call her." she added with a small smile. The sisters looked a lot alike, so she'd gotten into the habit of warning people in advance, to avoid awkward situations.

@Joaquin

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“Unfortunately, I have no interesting name more to offer beyond the one that was given to me: Valeria. But it is pleasant to meet you, Septima – or Clio, if I may call you that,” she replied, purposely softening herself a little as her overall sense of the girl was that she was timid or more introverted in nature. It was probable that the gesture was far too familiar, after all could she really be counted family or a friend? But she imagined after a while their names became easy to interchange and mistake for another, just in the way as she imagined their faces might. “If you ever find yourself in need of guidance in your writing, I implore you, you should find me. And you are, of course, invited to my domus at the Domi Quirinalis. Your sister is invited if she shares your interests in the written word.” Partly, Valeria saw it as an opportunity for her daughter to meet someone else her own age and in some way, it offered her a fresh blood where her current circles might feel stifling. Valeria certainly would have welcomed it but she never had that opportunity: most of the girls she had associated with in her youth were women she still associated with in her adulthood, a lot of which were privileged women who thought themselves layered simply for hiding away their anger or drinking issues.

@Chevi

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“Unfortunately, I have no interesting name more to offer beyond the one that was given to me: Valeria. But it is pleasant to meet you, Septima – or Clio, if I may call you that,”

"It is a pleasure to meet you, Valeria" Septima smiled back "You can call me Clio. It's easier to tell us apart this way, rather than calling us Minor and Maior." Not to mention she did not want to be called 'the little one' her entire life.

“If you ever find yourself in need of guidance in your writing, I implore you, you should find me. And you are, of course, invited to my domus at the Domi Quirinalis. Your sister is invited if she shares your interests in the written word.”

Clio chuckled. "She doesn't, really. But I'm sure she'd love to talk about the marriage bed..." she added before she caught herself "... she is eager to get married, you see. But she doesn't write much, not like I do. Would you... would you really be willing to help me?"

@Joaquin

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Hearing of sisters made Valeria feel as if a small piece of herself was missing. She had always wanted one where she only ever had a brother who was far much older and more of a joke target than a relation. “Oh,” Valeria let out another one of her loud laughs at Clio’s admission about her sister, but then admitted: “well, I can understand that curiosity.” In some or many ways, depending on the angle one looked at it, she had been the same. It was less of a hunger and more of a child’s curiosity about what all the adults were referring to. She was more comfortable with the subject of intercourse than someone ought to be but when bodily fluids and all shapes and state of genitalia dominated her imagination and time, she had become almost like a soldier who no longer felt phased by the sight of disembowelment and rotted flesh; it was merely passing fact and nothing else to dwell any further about. “And towards marriage as well,” she added, considering it as well and in that moment, thinking or rather knowing that Sulpicia likely thought similarly. “But it is a big change. I’m happy where I am now, but I feel that someone ought to enjoy what they have when they have the rest of their life to live in a union.”

“And I wouldn’t have suggested my help if I wasn’t willing to help you out,” Valeria answered following her words with a laugh. “Of course, I am. The more writers you know, the better.” Valeria rose to her feet, stretching her legs. “Do you have somewhere to be or can I pull you in to walk a little with me?”

 

@Chevi

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“Well, I can understand that curiosity. And towards marriage as well. But it is a big change. I’m happy where I am now, but I feel that someone ought to enjoy what they have when they have the rest of their life to live in a union.”

Thalia was eager to get married. Preferably to someone she liked, or admired, or at least to someone who could give her a splendid, interesting life. Clio hoped for all that for her sister. She deserved a good man, when the time came to marry. As for herself... she was less interested in all that, for now. She knew she could not stay alone forever, not unless she wanted to be a Vestal. But she still had time before things turned urgent, and she was more interested in other things. Like writing. And she was excited to meet a woman who shared that interest.

“And I wouldn’t have suggested my help if I wasn’t willing to help you out. Of course, I am. The more writers you know, the better. Do you have somewhere to be or can I pull you in to walk a little with me?”

"I... have some time, yes" Septima stood too, trying not to sound too eager. She was excited to talk more. "So... when did you first start writing?"

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